Delhi's summer coolers take a healthy turn

Beverages at Burma Burma (Photo courtesy Vinayak Grover)
Beverages at Burma Burma (Photo courtesy Vinayak Grover)

Summary

Cafés in Delhi are experimenting with botanical blends to create non-alcoholic beverages

At the newly opened Café Monique at the Manor in Delhi, summer is served in a pretty sling glass. The refreshing iced tea—made with a concoction of Tassyam organic piroska tea, a caffeine-free blend of hibiscus and rose petals—is garnished with dried rose petals. The café uses the cold-infusion technique, in which a variety of organic teas are steeped in cold water for 12-14 hours with ingredients such as rose petals, mint leaves and citrus fruit, along with their peels.

Take a quick tour of some of Delhi’s leading restaurants and cafés and you’ll find that this summer, it’s all about botanical blends with flowers, herbs, fruits and spices coming together. Be it artisanal iced teas, bubble teas, kombuchas, coolers, or lemonade, experiments in the non-alcoholic category are immense.

Ankit Gupta, co-founder of restaurant chain Burma Burma, says the category of “zero proof" or “moderate drinks" is growing and mixologists are putting unusual flavours on the table. Take its lemonade variation Peru, which is a blend of chopped guava with lime juice, mixed with crushed juniper berries, topped with soda and a hint of Sichuan pepper.

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“Everything this summer is about putting an element of health in a glass," says chef Divij Agarwal, founder, Canvas V, a vegan restaurant that opened two months ago in Delhi’s Panchsheel Park. For the 24-year-old chef, who interned with renowned chef Jean Georges in his New York-based vegan restaurant aBCv, “freshness of ingredients is key". Canvas V has a fermenting and brewing room for its in-house kombuchas, and grows its own green herbs hydroponically, used in their ginger-thyme, lemon grass-kaffir lime, and peppermint kombuchas. Another drink, Smoke Symphony, combines the technique of smoking the glass with fragrant rosemary which has spoonfuls of strawberry puree topped with fizz and ice for that unmistakable earthy aroma.

Atul Tiwari, manager, F&B, Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri, says the hotel has created beverages in-house centred around wellness and sustainability. Served at the restaurants and bar, The Qube and The Library Bar, respectively, there are a range of kombuchas, including a mango kombucha that is fermented for two weeks after which organic sugar is added and it’s further fermented for another week. At Adrift Kaya, the two-year-old Japanese restaurant at the JW Marriott in Aerocity, special summer drinks combining herbs and fruits have been crafted—the newly launched Kiwi Kucama is a case in point, combining ripe kiwis, cucumber, fresh basil leaves (the hotel has its own herb garden), along with freshly squeezed lime juice, soda, and ice cubes.

Summer beverages incorporate flowers such as elderflower, hibiscus, rose, chamomile and lavender, often in combination with fruits. While many are serving blue pea flower ice teas, we recommend Jaypee Vasant Continental’s Celestial Flower Brew that infuses lavender and blue pea at its lounge-bar Tapas. A personal favourite is the Mogra Jasmine Sherbet at Eleved by LifeYoga on Malcha Marg. The glass is filled with mogra-infused water, which is mixed with lemon juice and rock sugar and topped with lavender and butterfly pea flower ice cubes. It is garnished with fresh mogra flowers and basil leaves.

Restaurants and cafés are tuning in to the demand of the consumer to have a more mindful drinking experience this summer. 

Abhilasha Ojha is a Delhi-based art and culture writer.

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